October 27, 2004

ETHNICALLY VS. RELIGIOUSLY:

The End Of the 'Jewish Vote' (Peter Beinart, October 27, 2004, Washington Post)

[W]hile President Bush hasn't realigned the Jewish vote, he has done something even more intriguing: He has ended it.

The term "Jewish vote" implies a shared political perspective that binds Jews more to one another than to gentiles. In this sense, there has not been an "Episcopalian vote" or a "Catholic vote" for a long time. In the 1950s Christian denominations meant something at the polling booth. Catholics and Southern Baptists generally voted Democratic. Episcopalians and other main-line Protestants, especially in the North, voted Republican. But starting in the 1970s, religious denomination began to matter less -- and religious intensity to matter more and more. Catholics who went to Mass every week started voting more like Episcopalians who went to church every week than like Catholics who didn't. During the culture wars of the 1990s, the trend accelerated. This spring a study by the University of Akron's John Green for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found "that religious traditionalists, whether Evangelical, Mainline Protestant or Catholic, hold similar positions on issue after issue, and that modernists of all these various traditions are similarly like-minded." With the critical exception of African Americans -- whose religiousness has not generally inclined them toward the GOP -- traditionalist Christians voted Republican while modernist Christians voted Democratic.

Jews, however, were different. As late as 2000, Al Gore and his Orthodox running mate, Joe Lieberman, didn't just win most of the Jewish vote, they won a large majority among Orthodox Jews -- the "traditionalists" whom sociologists might have expected to join their Christian counterparts. But it now appears that, like Jimmy Carter, who won the votes of his fellow evangelicals in 1976, Lieberman simply delayed his community's migration into the Republican Party. This year, for probably the first time, Orthodox Jews will vote like "traditionalist" Christians. Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated Jews, on the other hand, will vote like secular, or "modernist," Christians. And the Jewish vote, in a meaningful sense, will cease to exist.

George W. Bush deserves much of the credit.


George Bush certainly deserves credit for aggressively courting blacks, Jews, and Latinos, but hardly caused the secular vs. religious rift within such groups. Over time the Democrats will hold non-Jewish Jews and the GOP will win Jews who still have faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2004 8:20 AM
Comments

As I've commented here on other occasions, those Jews who believe that Judaism is a faith, not merely a social action program, will vote for GWB. Those same Jews will migrate to the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, elderly Jews are still afraid that, despite his repeated assurances to the contrary, GWB will cut their social security benefits. It is for this reason that I cannot reason with my father, an observant Jew and long-time ZIonist, who simply will not vote for GWB despite all signs that suggest that Jean Francois will trade Israel's security for lionization in Europe.

Posted by: Morrie at October 27, 2004 8:55 AM

Morrie:

Tell your father that Jean Francois will tax SS benefits to pay for the health care of obese illegal immigrants.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 27, 2004 1:31 PM

First time I've seen the term "modernist" Christian. What is this supposed to designate?

Posted by: jd watson at October 27, 2004 1:44 PM
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